Mama’s face flickered with a smile as she served an extra spoon of rice on my plate. Despite the dim light emanating from the lamp, I could see her eyes beaming with pride. Mama was a petite and dark-complexioned woman with beady eyes and a bright face. She usually assists Baba in the market to sell fresh vegetables to merchants from various cities, who would flock the marketplace to purchase goods at a much cheaper rate.
It was the night before the D-day; the day I would be leaving the village and starting a new life in the city. Aunty Shalewa had promised to sponsor my university education on the condition that I perform outstandingly in my examinations. Following my outstanding result that was released earlier this week, I had been planning towards relocating to Lagos state.
“Bolatito will become a city girl!” my mother exclaimed as she whipped her head up and stared at my father in disbelief.
Baba, a frail-looking older man with thick mustache and silver hair, smiled in return and gazed at me. “Do not forget the daughter you are.”
“I won’t, Baba. I won’t.” I replied with certainty as I stared around the living room while I toyed with the spoon in my plate of rice.
Our living room was a medium-sized room consisting of worn-out upholstery and an old TV. Baba had revealed that his uncle, who worked in a manufacturing company in Enugu, had given him the TV fifteen years ago. It was the type of black-and-white television that had to be smacked before it could work. We hardly made use of the television because of the unsteady power supply.
Baba had purchased the upholstery from the gangly old carpenter who lived down the street. Baba would remark on several occasions that if Mr. Adisa- who had three wives and seven children that he could barely cater for- had not resulted in drinking, he would have become one of the most successful men in the village.
I observed our old and tattered carpet and spotted the patch that had been caused by the lantern which had fallen to the ground when I kicked it in my sleep. Mama had whipped me for burning a part of the carpet, which could have resulted in an accident.
I stared at the two small windows that were partitioned at both corners of the room and imagined the tons of mosquitoes that would have been rushing in to feast on our blood for dinner. I thought about the sequence of tasks I usually engage in every day- wake up after the cock’s crow and select the dry and strong wood for cooking, visit the stream and fill the drum with water, take the bag of fish to the market and return home to make breakfast, attend lessons and return home to make lunch, wash the plates and clothes and prepare dinner. All these would change when I relocate to the city.
The rickety, wobbly bus gave a weird sound- like a metal object was stuck in the tires- and threw us in uneven motions whenever it entered a bump. The bus driver was a swarthy middle-aged man with height like that of an iroko tree. His teeth had patches of brown stains, and he puffed on a cigarette while he was driving.
I was squeezed beside a rotund woman who chewed on a kola nut as sweat trickled down her face and a frail-looking man who spent a larger part of the journey coughing.
A nursing mother, who sat beside the frail-looking man, complained about the state of the rickety bus and threatened to get a refund of the transport fare. She went on to grumble about the state of the country and the number of lives that were lost along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway.
“My friend died last week—just last week along this road. You had better start praying to God that we arrive in Lagos safely,” she said to the other passengers as she held her baby and started to sing for her.
All these did not matter as much as arriving Lagos and starting a new life. I dreamt about putting on modern clothes and attending a school that is equipped with basic facilities. I imagined walking along the path and watching passers-by go about their daily duties. I would return to the village during the holiday and fill my parents with stories about the city. Friends would stare at me with jealous eyes as I tell them about the school I attend.
I was still dreaming of the city when a hand tapped my arm. “We don land Lagos,” the frail-looking man said with a throaty voice.
My head whipped round in astonishment as I gazed at the statue of three Lagos white-cap chiefs. I had read about the statues built to welcome people into Lagos State during one of my Social Studies classes, and I had yearned to see it someday.
My pupils were bubbling with excitement as I stared out of the window and observed the things around me- cars that were lined up in the snarled-up traffic, buildings that were constructed at both sides of the road, and the yellow buses that sped along the path. Lagos had always been my dream city, and I was glad to be here finally.
The towering gold statue of Gani Fawehinmi made me realize that we were at Ojota. Petrol tankers filled the roads, and car drivers struggled to reclaim their spots on the road. It fascinated me that cars as little as boxes would fight for space with petrol tankers.
Traffic crept to a halt after a car wreck happened by the roadside. This caused us to arrive at the park twenty minutes later. Passengers alighted from the bus and grabbed their bags from the booth. I followed suit and waited for Aunt Temi at a nearby kiosk.
I had expected Aunt Temi to have arrived but, much to my surprise, she was nowhere in sight.
Aunt Temi arrived an hour later, looking drained and exhausted. Dressed in a pink blouse and a black mini shirt, sweat dripped down her face as she walked towards where I was sitting.
She sighed deeply and forced a smile as she pulled me into a hug. “The traffic was crazy, and the bus driver refused to give me my change. I had to hold his shirt and fight oo!” Aunt Temi blurted out as she grabbed my luggage
I looked fixedly on her face with curious eyes and wondered why she seemed so different. Whenever Aunt Temi was visiting the village, she would wear colourful lace and walk gracefully in high-heeled shoes.
“Where is your car?” I inquired as I searched around us.
Aunt Temi snorted. “Car? Abeg, let’s leave here because the traffic gets more intense in the evening.” She said as she flung my luggage. “Hold your bag very well oo. If a thief grabs your bag, you’re to blame.” She bellowed at me as she started to walk towards the road. I tailed her as I held my luggage tightly.
As I increased my pace to catch up with Aunt Kemi, I cleaned the sweat that filled my forehead with the back of my sleeve. The sun-baked my face with ever-intensifying heat as I watched hawkers walk around with cartons of sausage rolls and cold soda drinks. My heart shrieked in fear as I spotted a police officer hitting a driver with his baton.
‘Welcome to Lagos,’ I sang in my head as I crossed to the other side of the busy road with Aunt Kemi.
Maryam AbdulWahab is a lifestyle blogger and creative writer. She is also a graduate of Economics from Al-Hikmah University. When she isn’t writing prose or blog posts, she is reading a book on romance or fantasy.